Greg Delanty

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Greg Delanty (born 1958) is a celebrated poet on both sides of the Atlantic as the issue dedicated to him of the British magazine Agenda (poetry journal) attests. Delanty was born in Cork City, Ireland, and is generally placed in the Irish tradition, though he is also considered a Vermont and US poet appearing in various significant US anthologies. He lives for most of the year in America, where he is the poet in residence at St Michael's College, Vermont. He became an American citizen in 1994, retaining his Irish citizenship. He is a Past President of the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers.


Irish novelist Colum McCann, who has himself resettled in America, has described Delanty as the poet laureate of the contemporary Irish-in-America: “Delanty has catalogued an entire generation and its relationship to exile. He is the laureate of those who have gone.”


Greg Delanty attended University College Cork (UCC) where he was taught by Sean Lucy and John Montague (poet) and was among a talented group of writers who emerged at the university in that period, including Maurice Riordan, Gregory O'Donoghue, Thomas McCarthy (poet), William Wall (writer), Gerry Murphy (poet), and Seán Dunne (poet). Equally important to him, were the poets who wrote in Gaelic, in UCC, such as Liam Ó Muirthile, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Louis DePaor and Colm Breathnach. At UCC Delanty edited the university magazine Quarryman and published his first poems in The Cork Examiner. As an editor of two issues of Quarryman he published poems by poets writing in Gaelic (without translation) and English, and was the first to do so in Ireland. He also solicited poems not just from fellow students but well known poets throughout Ireland and beyond, such as Seamus Heaney, Paul Durcan, Edwin Morgan (poet) and David Gascoyne.


As the entry on Delanty states in The Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry (second edition) and which is true of his work up to 2008:

In 1983, Delanty received the distinguished Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award (given to an Irish poet who has not previously published a book), and in 1986 his first full-length work, Cast in the Fire (Dolmen Press) appeared. That same year he received the Allan Dowling Poetry Fellowship, judged by Christopher Ricks, the award of $20,000 stipulated that he had to travel to the United States for a brief period. Since 1987, Delanty has been associated with Saint Michael College, Vermont, initially as a teacher and currently as poet-in-residence. It is here that his poems began to explore the themes of exile and family which would dominate his later work. His collection American Wake (Blackstaff, 1995), which envisions a fifth Irish province ‘where all exiles naturally land’, was followed by The Hellbox (Oxford University Press, 1998), whose title alludes to the printing trade to which his father had devoted his life. The Blind Stitch (Carcanet, 2001), extends the geography of Delanty’s poems to include India, and was followed by The Ship of Birth (Carcanet Press, 2007), a collection inspired by fatherhood and committed to ‘affirming the sustaining continuity of life’. Collected Poems 1986-2006 was published by Carcanet/Oxford Poets in 2006.


Among other entries on Greg Delanty worth noting are The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature (Oxford University Press, 1996) and The Encyclopedia of the Irish in America (Notre Dame University Press, 1999).” After Delanty’s Collected Poems 1986-2006 (Carcanet Press, 2006) he has expanded his range both in form and content especially with his latest book of poems The Greek Anthology, Book XVII (Oxford Poets of Carcanet Press, England, 2012), which was released in the U.S. in 2015 as Book Seventeen (LSU Press). In an interview with the Poetry Society that took place when the Carcanet edition was published he was asked about this book:

PS: I don’t know very much about The Greek Anthology. Would you tell me something about it, how the idea came together and what appealed to you so much about it?

GD: The original Greek Anthology is made up of sixteen books of short poems attributed to many different authors, ranging from the seventh century BC to the tenth century AD. The poems are amatory, religious, dedicatory, humorous, sepulchral, hortatory, declamatory, and satirical. My own book, The Greek Anthology, Book XVII adds a modern fictional book to the original sixteen and is similar in its range of tone and variety of subject matter. The poets of this book are fictional creations based often on myself. All the poems were written out of myself, my preoccupations over ten years or so—later, where possible, I put the names of other poets, family, friends and acquaintances—for fun, for a laugh really. My poems are for all those who are close to me and for whom poetry is important. You will recognize among these imaginary authors variants on the names of well known poets of our day such as Heanius who dedicated a poem in his own most recent book, Human Chain, to one Gregory of Corkus another poet in The Greek Anthology, Book XVII. These poets and poems give a sense of having already existed in another tradition and another language, a kind of parallel universe of our past and present and future. It may also have allowed me to talk about things or approach things that would have been more difficult or impossible in my own direct voice, say like the political poem ‘New Ostia’, or the erotic love poems. I tried to conjure old and new ways of looking at our contemporary world. It is also an obvious way of renewing, talking about our world in all the different ways we are in it.


Other poetry collections include The New Citizen Army (Combat Paper Press), which was a book of political poems concerned with war and climate change and the general complicity of our modern lives. The covers of this book were actually made from pulped uniforms of US soldiers and the whole book was designed and produced by US military veterans.


The next book Loosestrife (Fomite, Burlington, Vermont, 2011) is a progression from that edition and has many of the same poems in it. Many of the poems in both The New Citizen Army and Loosestrife were actually taken from his previous books of poems.

He is the lead poet in the anthology So Little Time: Words and Images for a World in Climate Crisis, (Green Writers Press, Vermont 2014). The book originally was to be set around Delanty’s own poems, via a suggestion to the Publisher by the environmentalist Bill McKibben, and Delanty in turn suggested that other poets be asked also, and many of the poets included were invited by him. As he says himself in the Preface to that book:

All my own poems included here were written over a period of twenty-five years. Many have appeared in other collections. They were written while I was writing other poems arising out of whatever was preoccupying me at the time—whether it was my parents, love, marriage, the birth of my son, or baseball. Since I have also always been preoccupied with what is going on in the world, naturally, I wrote poems out of my own public concerns, though I never think of them as either public or private. Maybe the only thing that makes a poem public is that it is published for the public to read. What is important for the poet is that the poem works as art firstly, that the poem is not overwhelmed by the artist on a soap box. It is only when art issues from the genuine, that the work is truthful and nourishing. Even the darkest art lifts the spirit. It releases something trapped in us so that we can breathe more easily.


Bill McKibben in his envoy to So Little Time writes: “The great Vermont poet Greg Delanty, who contributes the bulk of the writing in this extraordinary volume, came here, like many of Vermont’s writers, from away. But in this place of field and forest, small enough in scale, with the pastoral and the raw wild backing up against each other, so many writers and photographers have found a reassuring sense of the turning of the wheel, the passing ofone season into the next.”


To quote from The Sunday Times “Greg Delanty’s poems are a subtle combination of political activism and private contemplation.” – The Sunday Times


His poems are widely anthologized and have appeared in American, Irish, Italian, English, Australian, Japanese and Argentinean anthologies, including the Norton Introduction to Poetry, Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, American Poets of the New Century, 20th Century Irish Poems, Contemporary Poets of New England and The Penguin Book of Irish Poetry. His Individual poems have been published in such publications as The Atlantic formily The Atlantic Monthly, the New Statesman, The New Republic, American Scholar, The Irish Times, PN Review, and The Times Literary Supplement


Greg Delanty is the Co-Editor with Michael Matto of the critically acclaimed and a best seller on Amazon The Word Exchange: Anglo-Saxon Poems in Translation (Introduced by Seamus Heaney). New York: W.W. Norton, 2010.


Some of his other translations include Seán Ó Ríordáin's Selected Poems in Translation and Selected Poems of Kyriakos Charalambides (Cork: Southword Editions, 2005). He has also translated AristophanesThe Knights’ which he retitled ‘The Suits’, and Euripides’ ‘Orestes’, which he wanted to translate to ‘The Family’, but the chance of title occurred during the actually printing of the book so it was too late to alter. Both these classical plays were translated for The Complete Greek Drama Series (Penn Greek Drama Series, 1998)


Delanty edited, with Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, Jumping Off Shadows: Selected Contemporary Irish Poetry (Cork UP, 1995) and, with Robert Welsh, The Selected Poems of Patrick Galvin (Cork UP, 1995). He has read widely in the United States and Europe, including the Library of Congress.


Many of his poems have been broadcast on radio and television, from Garrison Kellior The Writer's Almanac to the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) and Radio Teilifis Eireann (Raidió Teilifís Éireann—Irish National TV and Radio Broadcasting). He also has been interviewed extensively. Two interviews worth noting are the Vermont PBS interview with Fran Stoddart in the program ‘Profiles’; and the other interview was with David Hanley in the RTE poetry program ‘The Enchanted Way’.


The National Library of Ireland has acquired Greg Delanty’s papers up to 2010.

Awards[edit]

Greg Delanty has received numerous awards including the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award (1983), the Allen Dowling Poetry Fellowship (1986), the Wolfers-O’Neill Award (1996-97), the Austin Clarke Award (1996), National Poetry Competition Prizewinner (Poetry Society of England, 1999) an Arts Council of Ireland Bursary (1998-99), and an award from the Royal Literary Fund (1999). He has been granted a Guggenheim Fellowship for poetry for 2007-2008.


Bibliography[edit]

  • Cast in the Fire Dolmen Press, 1986,
  • Southward Louisiana State University Press, 1992,
  • American Wake Blackstaff Press, 1995,
  • The Hellbox Oxford University Press, 1998,
  • The Blind Stitch Carcanet, 2001,
  • Collected Poems 1986-2006 Carcanet, 2006,
  • The Ship of Birth, LSU Press, 2007,
  • The Word Exchange: Anglo-Saxon Poems in Translation, co-editor, W. W. Norton & Company, 2010,
  • So Little Time: Words and Images for a World in climate Crisis, Green Writers Press, Vermont 2014
  • Book Seventeen Louisiana State University Press, 2015

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References[edit]